Parkinson's treatment unleashes Ross Eberts' creativity
His imagination runs wild, which he captures in his paintings
Ross Eberts was hit with a devastating diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in 2003, but what could have turned him into non-productive recluse instead opened up creative powers that he never knew he had.
"I worked for 37 years doing design engineering for mobile equipment companies," Eberts said. "I retired in 2005 after fighting Parkinson's for two years but started taking night classes learning watercolor painting while still working.
"After 10 years of taking the medication levodopa/dopamine, I had a surge of creativity. For Parkinson's patients, loss of fine motor skills and muscle stiffness can make artistic activities more difficult, so it was all the more surprising when I developed creative abilities in my painting."
Eberts, who lives in King City with his wife Carol, also has another source for his creativity - he is a medical marijuana user.
"I make brownies to eat at 7 p.m. every night," he said. "I look forward to it all day."
Eberts waits until evening because "I can't paint on marijuana," he said. "But when I'm stoned, I think about what I will paint. Sometimes when I'm sleeping, I will wake up and make notes, and then I paint during the day."
His works, which are mostly in the abstract genre, actually involve more than just painting. Eberts starts with applying acrylic paint to a foam board and then cuts and glues pieces of tissue paper to the background, layering them to create a 3D effect that gives an especially realistic look to buildings, fences and other elements in his works.
He can spend anywhere from two hours to a week on a piece, "depending on how many layers it has."
Some of Eberts' paintings are on permanent display in the King City Pro Shop, but otherwise, his works have only appeared at the King City Lions Club Christmas Bazaar once so far.
However, that is about to change as his paintings have been juried into the upcoming Calvin Presbyterian Church's Celebrate the Gifts Art Festival (see sidebar) and in a show at Concordia University next February.
Eberts hopes that maybe he will have a few sales at the two shows, noting that none of his paintings in the Pro Shop have sold "because golfers don't buy art."
He said he has felt his physical condition deteriorate over the past year and expects that these two shows will be his last.
"I tell people that this Calvin show will be my last local one except for the King City Christmas Bazaar," Eberts added.
He has found solace in what medical research has uncovered to help patients, noting that Dr. Rivka Inzelberg, a professor of neurology at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, published a paper in "Behavioral Neuroscience" in 2013 that identified levodopa and dopamine if used together as increasing brain pathways that "awaken" creativity.
"Parkinson's may take your brain away from you, but it also can give you creativity," Eberts said. "Everyone with Parkinson's has different symptoms - it's a crap shoot. It's a horrible disease."
The only good thing to come of it is his newfound creativity at the age of 73.
"Painting is fun," Eberts said. "I love it. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't paint."
Eberts said he tried the usual outlets for people afflicted with the disease, including going to a support group.
"I thought they were brain dead," he said. "The only people who talked were their caregivers."
Eberts would like to establish a new support group for people living in the King City and Summerfield areas with Parkinson's to get together and talk.